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Calls for safety drive to cut road deaths

MOTORISTS, cabbies and some expatriates say they are shocked by the city's most devastating crash involving a taxi in recent memory and many are calling for better driving manners and enforcement of the seat belt rule to reduce road deaths.

With a police investigation still ongoing to find out the cause of the collision between a taxi and a bus that killed five people on Tuesday, many people said they were deeply concerned by the tragedy and urged Shanghai drivers to obey the rules of the road and enforce the seat belt law.

"Illegal lane changes and speeding are rampant on the roads," said one local motorist. "Many drivers hardly ever wait when they should let others pass, which is the cause of many collisions. Speeding is also a great danger to road safety."

Some expatriates who spoke to Shanghai Daily agreed and expressed concern about how few people wear seat belts in the city.

Steve Hartles, an expatriate from the United Kingdom, said in an e-mail to Shanghai Daily yesterday that the accident "raises a serious question for the Shanghai taxi authorities" to look into the enforcement of seat belt law.

"My experience is that the only seat belts that are accessible in taxis are the front ones, generally unused by the driver and occasionally by passengers in Shanghai," he wrote.

He urged taxi authorities to enforce the wearing of seat belts by all passengers in taxis and said excessive speeds were another likely factor in causing the recent deaths.

Shanghai Daily yesterday interviewed a dozen taxi drivers who said they were under police scrutiny to wear seat belts but their passengers were not.

Chinese law states all drivers and passengers should wear seat belts but the law is usually only enforced for the driver and passenger in the front seat.

Cabbies said they are required by their taxi companies to inform the passenger in the front seat to wear a seat belt.

If the passenger does not listen and the police catch them, the passenger is liable for a fine of 50 yuan (US$7.31).

However, the threat of fines has not proved effective in encouraging people to wear seat belts, cabbies told the reporter.

As for passengers in the back seats of taxis who want to wear seat belts, they often find it impossible because the belts are left inside the white seat covers.

Industry rules don't state whether the seat belts in the back seat should be accessible to passengers.


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